Muller’s Delicatessen, Part 1: Bagels & Lox

Tomorrow is the official posting day for March’s Charcutepalooza challenge, but I thought I’d get the ball rolling early, since I kind of went nuts on this one. The second I saw “brined brisket” in the challenge discussion, my mind leapt to pastrami…and from there it naturally went to bagels and lox.


The Muller side family is pretty much unable to get together without sitting down at least once to bagels and lox; one of the last times my cousin and I got together for brunch in the city we wound up at Barney Greengrass. I think we need to have a Muller pilgrimage to Russ & Daughters as well soon. In the meantime, though, I will probably keep making my own cured salmon now that I know how. It’s cheap and super easy.

Sadly, the Kitchn pointed this out one day too late to fit into my pastrami timing: their recipe prescribes a 5-day salmon cure. After nosing around the internet, though, I found this recipe on It uses more salt and presses the salmon more: less kind to your fish (and with less smoky flavor), but it gets results in 24 hours. Tasty results.

To start, you pack your salmon with salt, sugar, and dill and parsley.

Then you weight it down before tossing it in the fridge.

Then, of course, you need to make something on which to put your salmon. Enter bagels. I used a bagel recipe in The Complete American Jewish Cookbook (1952).

I also got a great tip from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads: don’t roll and twist your bagels, poke holes in them with a wooden spoon handle instead.

I actually did the classic roll-twist on a few of mine, just to experiment, and they all came open when I was boiling them. I’m sure they’d have stayed better if I’d moistened the ends more, but the spoon trick works very, very well so I’ll probably stick with it in the future. These bagels are old-school: they’re much smaller than the flying saucer-size ones we get these days at Dunkin Donuts. This meant, however, that I was able to fit ten of them in boiling water at once.

They weren’t the most gorgeous bagels, but the dough recipe was solid, and I’ll definitely come back to work on my technique. And to try more toppings…

In the meantime, keep tuned for pastrami on rye, and for the homemade cream cheese I paired with these lox!

Bagels (Makes about 20 4-inch bagels)
1 c. milk, scalded
4 tbsp. butter, cut into small pats
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 packet active dry yeast
1 egg, separated
3 c. flour
1 tsp. cold water

1. Scald the milk, remove it from heat, and stir the butter, sugar, and salt in to melt and dissolve all the ingredients together.
2. Let this mixture cool to a lukewarm temperature, then add the yeast and egg white and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Stir to dissolve the yeast.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into a large bowl and stir flour in with a wooden spoon, a 1/2 cup at a time. Knead for 5 minutes on a floured surface until the dough is elastic, then place it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set it in a warm place to rise for an hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a wide skillet or saucepan of water to simmer towards the end of this hour. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
5. To form the bagels: punch the dough down and break it into balls the size of small plums. Use a wooden spoon handle (or similar implement) to poke a hole in the middle of each ball. Expand the hole to about 1″ in diameter and smooth the edges, then let the bagels sit for 10 minutes, until they just start to rise.
6. Place the bagels in the simmering water (they should not touch) and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. They should puff up, and should not break apart.
7. Remove the bagels to the parchment-covered baking sheet. Whisk together the egg yolk and cold water and brush the tops of your bagels with this mixture. Sprinkle on toppings as you desire – sesame, poppy, salt, garlic, etc.
8. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the tops of the bagels are golden. Serve hot with a schmear!

Cured Salmon (Adapted from a recipe at Chow)
2 c. kosher salt
2 c. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. peppercorns, coarsely ground
1 (1- to 2-pound) salmon fillet, skin on (scales removed) and pin bones removed
1 bunch dill (including stems), coarsely chopped
1 bunch Italian parsley (including stems), coarsely chopped

1. Place salt, sugar, and pepper in a medium bowl and mix until evenly combined.
2. Place half the dill and parsley, loosely mixed, in the bottom of a wide, shallow nonreactive container and sprinkle half of the sugar-salt mixture over the herbs. Put the salmon on top, cover with the remaining salt and sugar, pack the rest of the herbs on top, and cover with plastic wrap.
3. Set another wide, flat dish on top of the salmon, add 3 to 4 pounds of weight on top of that (large cans work well) and put the whole setup in the refrigerator.
4. Let it set for 10 to 12 hours, then remove the dish from the refrigerator and soak up excess liquid with paper towels. Remove the salt and herbs from the top of the salmon, flip the fish over, and repack everything. Replace the weights and refrigerate for an additional 12 hours.
5. At the end of the 12 hours, remove the fish from the cure, rinse it under cold water, and taste a tiny sliver. If it’s too salty, put it back in the fridge for an hour in a cold water bath before serving.